The team had not originally intended to run this event. Sears Pointless was scheduled to be in late March this year and, as the name implies, was at Sears Point…quite possibly our favorite track. With our tight budget, doing both races just wasn’t in the cards. But then we heard an announcement that made us shuffle our priorities, sell vital parts of anatomy and visit every pay day loan store within a 200 mile radius: Reno was going to be a 24 hour endurance event, a full honest to goodness 24 hours straight through. We simply had to do it.
The Jeep has always been a reliable and steadfast racing companion, shrugging off the exertions of endurance racing that plague so many other teams’ fancy furrin’ cars, but this was to be a true challenge. The standard LeMons schedule has the racing beginning around 9 a.m. Saturday and ending around 5 p.m. that same day, then starting up again the next day for a similar blast of racing. At the time you’re actually racing the standard schedule, finishing the first day feels like a herculean accomplishment, and if the car is independently locomotive at the finish, you can scarcely believe it. Could we really do 24 hours straight through? We decided to find out.
Additionally, we wanted to bring some fun with us to the event…after all, that is the whole point. To this end we concocted a, um “beverage” called P8. This stands for Petty’s Purportedly Potable, Potentially Putrid, Probably Poisonous Punch, aka Petty Punch. We started by stopping at The Liquor Expo in Northern California and buying some of their finest vodka. We were assured by the owner of the establishment that “Royal Gate Vodka” was on par with Grey Goose and Chopin, and all for $8.99 for a half gallon! Clearly we needed to add some Petty Blue to our cocktail to really “make it ours,” and what says high class better than blue gummy sharks:
We also wanted to add blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers to round out the flavor and give it some depth, so I bought a decent sized package in Liquor Expo and tore it open in the parking lot. In the entire package of Jolly Ranchers, easily 40 pieces of hard candy there were only TWO blue ones. C’mon…really? How is that mathematically possible? So come watermelon and grape ones got thrown in the stew for good measure.
We allowed that to steep for the rest of the drive to Reno and that night. About 24 hours later we were ready to run the Jeep through tech inspections and unveil our Petty Punch. The color was perfect Petty Blue, and in a last minute stroke of brilliance we noticed it also bore a strong resemblance to Windex. Inspiration!
Being shown off with our wonderfully tacky, yet nearly useless blue LED underglow:
At the request of the organizers, we brought along a pair of M4 Carbines and one AK47 to use in a bit they were doing with Adam Carolla’s upcoming show on Speed Channel called “The Car Show.” We decided to bring them along to tech inspection…just in case:
With tech inspection, we decided it might be time to wire and aim our lights for the upcoming day’s 24 hour race…we had a nice back drop…and I went a little crazy taking pictures:
With our lights aimed and gratuitous poser shots taken, we returned to our pits to open up the Petty Cash Cineplex and give samples of P8:
With a long 24 hours ahead of us, we called it an early evening and retired to our big enclosed trailer and tried to sleep. We used the exhaust on the race car to blow up our air mattresses:
Curled up in my sleeping bag, all I could hear in my head was the groovy ’70s soundtrack to Steve McQueen’s classic racing film, Le Mans (you know, this one) and all I could think about was if the Jeep would hold together. Would we hold together? Did we bring enough tires? How are the new shocks going to work? Am I going to screw the pooch and wad the car up before anybody else on the team gets a chance to drive? I have a sneaking suspicion I wasn’t the only driver with similar thoughts dancing through his head that night, but having only slept a couple hours in a row for the previous several days, sleep did finally come.
The 7 am alarm rang quicker than I thought possible, but we all gradually woke up and began tending to last minute details on the car. Like, you know, wiring the in-car comms which arrived that morning. Nothing like last minute scrambling to instill confidence just before strapping on a race car and going out onto a race track you’ve never seen, on tires you’ve never driven on in a field of $500 cars with drivers who may not know a shift knob from their own…well, you get the idea.
None the less, at exactly 10:04 on the dot, the green flag dropped and we were off on our first 24 Hour race. As the guy with the most experience (both in road racing and with the Cherokee), I went out first. I knew almost immediately that something was very different. Our new Falken Azenis RT-615Ks weren’t just a little better than our old rubber, they were positively physics defying. On lap 5 I radioed to the pits “These tires shouldn’t be legal in LeMons. I feel like I’m in an F1 car.”
Want to know more? Tune back in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion and to find out what happens to our intrepid band of wannabe racers!